Champion Wise Dan Back at the Track

Champion Wise Dan Back at the Track

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan will begin tack-walking and is expected to undergo further evaluation in two to three weeks as to whether he will continue progress toward a return to the races in 2015, trainer Charlie LoPresti said March 2.

Morton Fink’s 8-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding missed a run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), a race he won in 2013 and 2012, due to a non-displaced fracture at the bottom of the cannon bone of his right front fetlock announced last Oct. 13. The injury resulted in only minor lameness for Wise Dan, who began to heal with tack-walking and being turned out in a round pen at Keeneland, then followed his usual seasonal routine of turnout at LoPresti’s Forest Lane Farm near Lexington.

“We X-rayed him on Friday (Feb. 27) and the fracture is healing well,” LoPresti said. “The inside looks great, but the outside edge of it needs to fill in some more. Dr. (Larry) Bramlage wants me to put the tack on him and start walking him to put some pressure on it and get some more bloodflow to it. We’ll take another set of X-rays in two to three weeks and if it looks okay we might start jogging him.”

Wise Dan, a six-time Eclipse Award winner, had his season interrupted by colic surgery last year after taking the Maker’s 46 Mile (gr. IT) and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) for the second season in a row. He came back to win the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) and won a second edition of the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) before the injury ended his undefeated 2014 campaign.

“The most important thing is that we get that injury to be 100%, and until it’s 100% we can’t go any further,” LoPresti explained. “Mr. Fink is of the opinion that we do whatever we have to do to have that horse 100%, even if he never runs again, just so he’ll have a perfect rest of his life. If he’s 100% then he’ll resume full training. If he’s not, I want everybody to realize we will not go any further with him until that thing looks perfectly healed. I’m not going to risk anything just to bring him back.

“He’s not in full training. He’s 100% sound but the X-rays still show a little gray area, and that thing has to get dense and fill in the rest of the way. This is the next step, to get him back under tack, and we’re optimistic.”

Wise Dan, bred by Fink in Kentucky out of the Wolf Power mare Lisa Danielle, has taken 11 grade I races in his 23 wins and finished second twice from 31 starts, good for earnings of $7,552,920. He was named Horse of the Year in 2013 and 2012, and swept the titles for champion turf male and champion older male in both of those seasons as well.

The chestnut gelding enjoyed six to seven hours of turnout daily in the paddock at Forest Lane, but was happy to return to Keeneland two days ago.

“He’s been bored at the farm; he’s been wanting to do something and he bounced off that van and said ‘OK, let’s go to work,'” LoPresti said


Rebel Still Possibilty for Take Charge Brandi

Rebel Still Possibilty for Take Charge Brandi
Photo: Coady Photography

Take Charge Brandi
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he hopes to breeze champion filly Take Charge Brandi March 2 at Oaklawn Park in preparation for her next start, possibly against males in the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) March 14.
“At this point,” Lukas said late Sunday morning, he still plans to enter Take Charge Brandi in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies March 7, a move that will allow he and owner Willis Horton more time to analyze the prospective Rebel field.
Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee will be drawn Wednesday morning. Horton has said his preference is to test his Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly against males in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. Lukas said has said that even though she is a Triple Crown nominee, the Kentucky Oaks May 1 at Churchill Downs is Take Charge Brandi’s main spring target, with preps in the Honeybee and Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) April 4, both at Oaklawn.
Take Charge Brandi, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway  , galloped the morning of Feb. 26 at Oaklawn, but the track was closed for training Friday and Saturday. Lukas had mentioned working the filly over the weekend, but decided not take any of his horses to the track Sunday morning when Oaklawn reopened for training. The surface was rated muddy Sunday by clockers.
“We’ll work tomorrow if the track’s good,” Lukas said. “If it isn’t, then we won’t work at all.”
Despite not going to the track the last three days, Lukas said the interruption would not impact Take Charge Brandi’s next start, whether it’s the Honeybee or Rebel.
“You’re always concerned about setbacks this time of the year, but a day or two doesn’t make any difference,” Lukas said. “But you’d like to run on the day you train for.”
Take Charge Brandi won the Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 in her 3-year-old debut.


Gulfstream Park Cancels Card in Deluge

Gulfstream Park Cancels Card in Deluge

Photo: Coglianese Photos/Kenny Martin – Gulfstream Park canceled racing because of the

Gulfstream Park canceled the remainder of their Feb. 28 card as a deluge pelted the South Florida area, with the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Swale Stakes (gr. II) and the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) among the events lost on the 12-race program.

Racing went off for races 1- 5, with Stronach Stables’ Devine Aida taking an off-the-turf edition of the $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT), before Gulfstream management called off the rest of the card.

“The rain just didn’t stop and, for the safety of our customers, jockeys, horsemen, and employees, we felt it best to cancel the races for the remainder of the day,” Gulfstream Park general manager P. J. Campo said.

Campo said both the Swale and Palm Beach will now be run March 7 along with the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II).

Racing is scheduled to resume March 1, with a 12:30 p.m. ET first post.



Rodriguez Suspended, Fined for Positives

Rodriguez Suspended, Fined for Positives

Photo: Chad B. Harmon – Rudy Rodriguez

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez was handed a 25-day suspension and was fined $2,500 after two of his horses tested positive for the Class 4 therapeutic drug flunixin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug also known as Banamine that is used to treat colic and muscle pain.

According to a ruling issued by the New York State Gaming Commission Feb. 28, two of Rodriguez’s horses—Majestic Marquet and Vee’s Accolade—both had flunixin present in their system during race day.

Rodriguez served a 20-day suspension in 2013 and also paid a $7,500 fine after two horses tested positive for flunixin in 2012. His current suspension will run from March 2-26.

The trainer will be denied access to the grounds and his horses are expected to run under the care of his brother, Gustavo Rodriguez, who is also Rodriguez’s assistant. After his suspension ends, Rodriguez will serve a nine-month probationary period and would receive an additional 20-day suspension if any horse in his barn tests positive.

Majestic Marquet won the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 10, 2013, while Vee’s Accolade finished second in the sixth race at Belmont Park April 26. Both horses were disqualified from the order of finish and ordered unplaced, with purse money from the races to be redistributed.

The former jockey and exercise rider for banned trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., Rodriguez had to get special permission from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to allow his horse, Vyjack, to compete in the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), after agreeing to 24-hour surveillance. Vyjack finished 18th.

Rodriguez began his training career in 2010 and has saddled 582 winners with earnings of $24,819,559. In 2014 he had his best season ever, winning 132 races from 628 starts with earnings of $7,510,689, including saddling the winners of four grade I races—Belle Gallantey (Delaware Handicap, Beldame Stakes), Dads Caps (Carter Handicap), and Condo Commando (Spinaway Stakes).

Condo Commando is considered a top prospect for this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr.I) to be held at Churchill Downs May 1.

Rodriguez did not immediately return a call seeking comment.




Caesars’ Moves Impact Turfway, ThistleDown

Media outlets in Cincinnati and Las Vegas have reported that Caesars Entertainment sold off enough of its interest in Turfway Park to Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ohio Ventures Feb. 26 to make Rock Ohio the majority owner of the Northern Kentucky track.

Those outlets also report Caesars Entertainment sold off its 20% interest in ThistleDown Racino to Rock Ohio. The track sales figure to be reviewed by regulators in Ohio and Kentucky.

The publications added that Caesars sold off its 20% interest in two stand-alone Horseshoe casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland to Rock Ohio.

Matt Cullen, chief executive officer of Rock Ohio Ventures and Rock Gaming, acknowledged in a statement that the transaction would make Rock Ohio Ventures the majority owner of Turfway, reports in Cincinnati.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Caesars is attempting to reduce debt by about $10 billion. It reported a sale price for Thursday’s transactions was not disclosed, and noted that Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment formed their joint venture to develop and operate casinos in 2010.

Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert is majority owner of Rock Ohio Ventures.

The news outlets reported that Caesars’ subsidiaries will continue to manage the Ohio casinos, including the casino at Thistledown.


Suffolk Downs, Horsemen Have Deal for Meets

There will be a live race meet at Suffolk Downs in 2015 and 2016 now that track ownership and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have come to terms.

The on-again, off-again, complex deal for the horsemen to lease the track that has been negotiated over the last several months was finalized Feb. 27 with the approval of both boards of directors.

“We are optimistic that our horsemen will be able to race at Suffolk Downs and the local breeders may remain in business for the next two years. We are thankful for the wisdom, cooperation, and hard work of all the parties involved,” New England HBPA president Anthony Spadea said. “We still have several steps to accomplish to ensure that the Massachusetts Thoroughbred industry, which has an annual economic impact of $116.5 million, remains viable.”

The first step is getting favorable legislation that includes the extension of Suffolk Downs’ simulcast rights over the two-year period, even though horsemen will be the licensee for the meets. Those rights, which were extended for 90 days Dec. 31 even though the track did not apply for 2015 live racing dates, are set to expire March 31.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission must also grant its approval of the deal.

After the commissioners failed to select Suffolk Downs’ gaming partner, Mohegan Sun, for the single Greater Boston-area destination casino license in September, track ownership declared an end to live racing since it was no longer economically feasible. The New England HBPA then decided to apply for dates in 2015, and the MGC allowed the group to file a placeholder application for a one-day meet.

Horsemen followed with an application for 65 days of live racing. The completion of the deal with Suffolk Downs will be a major step forward in the MGC’s consideration of the horsemen’s subsequent application to conduct a live race meet this year.

Meanwhile, neither track officials nor the horsemen could predict how many days of live racing there will be this year. All that is known at this stage is that the meet will be anywhere from a minimum of one day up to a maximum of 50 days and purses cannot be structured until that is determined.

The deal to keep live racing at Suffolk Downs through 2016 also gives track owners, who have stated repeatedly they have lost about $60 million over the last several years on live racing, to move forward with their plans to develop the highly valuable property.

“While we focus on the future development of Suffolk Downs, we’re gratified that we have been able to reach an agreement with the New England HBPA on an interim solution that will keep people working as the horsemen pursue their long-term plans and as we explore development options,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs.

The potential restoration of live racing at the 80-year-old landmark, at least in the short term, will protect the 1,500 direct and non-direct Thoroughbred industry jobs in the state, while preserving the 62 breeding farms and 6,650 acres of open space in the statewide agricultural network.

The horsemen are also hopeful that they will be allowed to access a portion of their share of the monies in the state’s new Race Horse Development Fund that are strictly allocated for purses. They would use the RHDF funds, which will be fueled by licensing fees and a percentage of the future revenue from the single slot-machine parlor and three casinos, to help pay for part of the operating and administrative costs of running the meets.

But legislative and MGC approval will be required.


Jockey Jerry Lambert Dies at 74


Jockey Jerry Lambert Dies at 74

Photo: Benoit Photo – Jerry Lambert

Jerry Lambert, one of California’s leading jockeys in the 1960s and 1970s, died Feb. 24 at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, Calif.

Best known as the regular rider for Hall of Fame gelding Native Diver, Lambert, known as “Clyde” to many contemporaries, was 74. Funeral services are pending.

Born in Clyde, Kan., Lambert won three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups with Native Diver from 1965-67. “The Black Horse,” as Lambert often referred to him, Native Diver had a keen temperment and front-running style that was perfectly complemented by Lambert’s deft touch.

Santa Anita Park‘s leading winter/spring meet rider in 1967-68 with 77 winners in 72 days of racing, Lambert was also leading rider at the California track’s Oak Tree meeting in 1972 with 30 victories. He was also Del Mar‘s leading jockey in 1967.

“He was a great rider,” retired Hall of Fame jockey Donald Pierce said. “I rode with him from the time he came to California in 1961 until I retired (in 1984). Any time he was in a race, you had to deal with him, because he didn’t make mistakes. He was very quiet, very low key, and he’d come and beat you when you’d least expect it. He was a lot like (Bill Shoemaker). He was very quiet to be around and to ride with.”

Known as a great judge of pace, and blessed with light hands and a cool demeanor, Lambert’s career was often stymied by his love of the outdoors, which resulted in a number of protracted absences from the saddle.

“I think maybe the best indication of how good he was, was that every time he came back, he had a lot of business,” Pierce said. “Buster Millerick, (the trainer of Native Diver), loved him and whenever Jerry would come back to ride, Buster put him on horses, which was very unusual then, (because) those older guys didn’t like it when you took off and were gone for a while. Most of the time, when you took off, those horses went to other jocks and that’s the way it was.”

He was also a part of one of American racing’s all-time greatest match races, which pitted Typecast and  Shoemaker against Convenience and Lambert at 1 1/8 miles on June 17, 1972 at Hollywood Park.

Typecast was favored, but Lambert, in the opinion of many observers, rode a race for the ages, enabling Convenience to prevail by a head in a $250,000 winner-take-all thriller witnessed by a crowd of 53,575.

“Not too many people out-rode Shoemaker, but Jerry had him in his hip pocket that day,” said trainer Tom Proctor, who was a 16-year-old groom at the time. “He had Shoe in a bad spot going into the first turn and again when they turned for home. He had Shoe where he wanted him and he drifted out, so Shoe had to come inside. I never saw my dad (Convenience’s trainer, Willard Proctor) get nervous, but he was that day. There were 53,000 ‘paid’ there and from the time the horses came into the old paddock in front of the grandstand, I don’t think anyone sat down. Jerry was a horse-backer and that was a big win for Glen Hill Farm.”

Lambert enjoyed a career resurgence in 1987, riding at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California for trainers such as Jack Arterburn and Jerry Dutton. His comeback was derailed when he sustained a life-threatening spill going ot the far turn at Pleasanton Fairgrounds Racetrack in July of the same year, which resulted in a broken cheekbone, broken ankle, and collapsed lung.

Lambert was a winner of the 1995 Darley Award, given annually to America’s top Arabian-bred jockey, and he finished his riding career at Los Alamitos Racetrack, where he dominated the track’s Arabian standings from 1994 to 1998.

“Jerry may have had the best set of hands I’ve ever seen,” said Los Alamitos track announcer Ed Burgart. “He sat a horse perfect and he never abused his mounts. They ran out of their minds for Jerry. He just had that magic touch.

Lambert broke his maiden on a half-mile bullring in Shelby, Mont., in 1958, won 2,535 Thoroughbred races and retired with 54 stakes wins at Hollywood Park, 42 at Santa Anita and 30 at Del Mar.


Luzzi Recipient of Woolf Memorial Award


Luzzi Recipient of Woolf Memorial Award

Mike Luzzi, America’s Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey in 1989, has been named the winner of the 2015 Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award by a nationwide vote of his peers.

A 45-year-old native of Wilmington, Del., Luzzi has had a successful career riding primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region and New York.

Luzzi, who has been sidelined due to a broken leg and fractured pelvis sustained in a paddock accident at Aqueduct Racetrack last Nov. 2, Luzzi outpolled James Graham, Leslie Mawing, Corey Nakatani, and the recently retired Rosie Napravnik.

It is expected that Luzzi will be at Santa Anita Park to accept the award in either March or April.

Presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950, the Woolf Award recognizes riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for both the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Born Oct. 27, 1969, Luzzi was raised in part by his grandfather, legendary trainer Buddy Raines, who also trained one of Luzzi’s biggest early stakes winnersTimely Warning, with whom Luzzi won the 1991 Maryland Million Classic at Pimlico Race Course and Brooklyn Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Luzzi was also the winner of New York’s Mike Venezia Memorial Jockey Award in 2001.

With 26,540 career mounts, Luzzi has won 3,420 races and his mounts have generated purse earnings of $108,218,039.

Luzzi and his wife, Tania, reside in Floral Park, N.Y. They have a daughter, Larue, 14, and son, Lane, 16, who is preparing to become a jockey.

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize the legendary jockey George “the Iceman” Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big-money riders of his time. Woolf died following a spill, which has often been attributed to the effects of diabetes, at Santa Anita Jan. 3, 1946.

The Woolf Award trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey that adorns Santa Anita’s paddock garden area. The inaugural Woolf Award winner, which was determined by a media vote, was Gordon Glisson. Last year’s Woolf Award was won by Corey Lanerie.


Handle-Wise, Gulfstream Has One of Best Days


Handle-Wise, Gulfstream Has One of Best Days

Photo: Coglianese Photos/Kenny Martin

Itsaknockout (right) won the 2015 Fountain of Youth via DQ.

Gulfstream Park had all-sources pari-mutuel handle of $20,583,598 for its 12-race Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) card Feb. 21, its second-best wagering total on a non-Florida Derby (gr. I) day since it opened its new facility in 2006.

Gulfstream had $20,748,939 in all-sources handle for 12 races Feb. 22, 2014, also a Fountain of Youth Stakes day. The track’s all-time record for all-sources handle is $26,820,951 for 14 races set March 29, 2014, last year’s Besilu Stables Florida Derby day.

Numbers are from Equibase charts. Breakdowns for live handle and wagering at other sites weren’t readily available.

The Fountain of Youth card was run on a rain-free day with temperatures in the mid- 70s. Wagering, excluding multiple-race bets, was $2,399,7344 for the Fountain of Youth. The race’s win, place, and show handle was $1,066,531.


NY Report on Asmussen Probe Still Incomplete


Photo: Rick Samuels - Steve Asmussen

Photo: Rick Samuels – Steve Asmussen

New York regulators are still not saying when the findings of an investigation into allegations of horse abuse by trainer Steve Asmussen will be released.

A month after state equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer indicated an investigation by New York officials had been completed, the state’s lead racing regulator Feb. 23 told his board a report into the matter remains incomplete.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last year accused the trainer of overseeing a stable in which widespread abuse of horses occurred. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in January cleared Asmussen, who has denied any wrongdoing since PETA last year released a video it says was filmed inside the trainer’s barns in Kentucky and New York.

New York regulators are involved because of alleged abuse that occurred during the 2013 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.

“The report remains in process of editing and organizational revision, and we hope that it soon will be available for your review and action,” Robert Williams, executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission, told the board. The next meeting of the board, which regulates the state’s racing industry, is in four weeks.

PETA claims it had a member work in Asmussen’s stable who filmed and observed various forms of equine abuse. Kentucky regulators said the horses in Asmussen’s stable were “well-cared for as measured by such factors as incidence of injuries and KHRC veterinarian scratches.”

The agency said its investigators found no violation of Kentucky racing regulations by Asmussen or his assistant, Scott Blasi.

Palmer in January told the NYSGC that investigators had reviewed hundreds of pages of documents and more than eight hours of video submitted by PETA.

In an unrelated matter, Williams also told the board the agency is continuing to investigate what he called “a spike” in equine breakdowns and deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack during the winter meet. He did not elaborate.